Saturday, 25 November, 2017

Lebanon foreign minister starts Europe tour to rally support

Lebanon foreign minister starts Europe tour to rally support Lebanon foreign minister starts Europe tour to rally support
Melinda Barton | 14 November, 2017, 13:21

Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri resigned in a speech from Saudi Arabia on November 4 and has yet to return to the country, sparking a political crisis.

The European Union on Monday urged Saad al-Hariri to return to Lebanon, calling on all political forces inside the country to focus on the domestic agenda and warning Saudi Arabia against meddling.

His resignation came as tensions rise between Riyadh and Teheran, which back opposing sides in power struggles from Lebanon and Syria to Yemen.

Hariri's resignation, announced from Riyadh, and its aftermath have put Lebanon at the forefront of regional rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia Riyadh in recent days. The visit aims to rally diplomatic support and explain Lebanon's predicament following Hariri's move.

The political crisis in Lebanon shouldn't delay the country's first oil and gas offshore licensing round, its energy minister said on Tuesday.

In his resignation speech, Hariri cited fear of an assassination plot backed by Iran, and sternly criticized the Islamic Republic and its Lebanese terror proxy Hezbollah for fueling conflict throughout the Middle East.

She said outside interference in Lebanon - buffeted for decades by conflicts between bigger players in the region such as Iran and Syria - was a "current and always existing threat".

"We are preoccupied by the situation in Lebanon. we are worried about its stability, we are worried about its integrity, we are worried about non-interference", Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

France's foreign minister, speaking on the sidelines of the ministerial gathering in Brussels, also called on other countries not to interfere in Lebanon.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hariri's resignation should serve as "a wake-up call to the worldwide community to take action against the Iranian aggression that is trying to turn Syria into a second Lebanon".

Meanwhile the French presidency welcomed Hariri's comment that he would soon be returning to Lebanon.